Rome, Italy, Aug 26, 2008 (CNA) - The head of the Vatican Philatelic and Numismatic Office, Dr. Pier Paolo Francini, has revealed the story behind the stamps that were used at the Vatican during the interregnum period of 2005 after the death of Pope John Paul II.
The design used for stamps during that time came after one of his co-workers saw a fresco by the Italian artist Carlo Malli that he thought would be appropriate for the occasion.
Francini told the L’Osservatore Roman that “by tradition the stamps during a Vacant See should be printed as soon as possible. The rest has to do with an event that takes place solely in the Vatican.”
“During a Vacant See period, the power to authorize the issuing of new stamps or coins falls, as with any other activity of the State, into the hands of the Cardinal Camerlengo (the head of the papal household) for a brief period, during which it is nevertheless necessary to reaffirm the continuity of the life of the State, without interruption, through the issuance of new stamps and printing of new coins,” he said.
Francini went on to note that “the announcement of the passing of John Paul II, filled me and my collaborators not only with sorrow but also with a certain anxiety because we would need to make these stamps, three in total, very quickly. But 26 years had passed since the last Vacant See. I vaguely remembered it, my collaborators were just kids, and many had never lived through one at all. So there was a generational gap we had to overcome. We had clear difficulties in beginning to design these stamps.”
“Finally some frescos from the Apostolic Room which one of our collaborators just happened to see one day came to our rescue,” Francini continued. Three stamps based on the frescos were issued, he said, representing the Holy Trinity.
Once the new Pope is elected, the stamps for the Vacant See “should be immediately pulled out of circulation, they are no longer valid. They can later be collected but they can no longer be used as postage,” he explained.
The three series of 700,000 stamps issued during that time carried the emblem used by the Vatican during a Vacant See period, which is composed of two keys underneath a canopy.
Francini also revealed that perhaps in September three commemorative stamps and a special coin for the Pauline Year will be issued. He also said that special stamps will be issued in 2009 to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Vatican City State.
Denver, Colo., Aug 26, 2008 (CNA) - Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, delivered a speech at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Denver on Monday afternoon, saying DNC delegates will nominate Sen. Barack Obama as the “next pro-choice president of the United States.” Warning supporters of abortion that “reproductive freedom is on the line,” she claimed a McCain presidency could endanger permissive abortion laws in the U.S.
Claiming the party is united behind the “core moral values” of supporting and defending “a woman’s right to choose safe, legal abortion,” she said the Democratic Party believes in doing more to prevent “unintended pregnancy” to reduce the need for abortion. She pressed for “honest, realistic sex education” while professing a shared stand in the “right to choose contraception.” She also said the party stands with women who choose adoption.
Arguing that the debate over “reproductive rights” has been “divisive” and dominated by black-and-white slogans that “fail to acknowledge the profound complexity most people feel on the issue of abortion, she asserted that such putatively complex opinions can be respected “while still protecting the fundamental values of freedom and privacy.”
Keenan attacked presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain, arguing that he has voted to ban abortion without exceptions for victims of incest or rape. She also attacked what she said was his support for the Republican Party platform, which calls for outlawing abortion in all circumstances.
Noting the presidential election coincides with the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide, she claimed “reproductive freedom is on the line.”
Characterizing U.S. Supreme Court’s status as at “an ideological tipping point,” she said Sen. McCain has pledged to appoint Supreme Court justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade.
Keenan’s short speech tended to focus on McCain more than Obama. In her printed remarks, she mentions Sen. Obama’s name twice but Sen. McCain’s name five times.
She closed her speech by calling Sen. Obama “an effective and passionate leader who will protect a woman’s right to choose now and for future generations.”
According to the Keenan biography provided by the DNC, Keenan was “born into an Irish-Catholic family” in the state of Montana, for which she later served as a state legislator.
Orissa, India, Aug 26, 2008 (CNA) - A laywoman was killed and a priest seriously injured in eastern India on Monday after suspected Hindu extremists set a Christian-run orphanage on fire.
The attack took place in Khuntapali in the state of Orissa nearly 250 miles west of the state capital Bhubaneshwar. According to the Associated Press, a group of Hindu militants gathered at the orphanage and asked nearly 20 residents to leave the complex.
Then they set the orphanage on fire with a laywoman and a priest locked inside, Ashok Biswal, superintendent of police told the AP.
The laywoman died and the priest was hospitalized with serious burns.
The incident occurred during a strike called by the World Hindu Council to protest Saturday’s killing of a Hindu religious leader and four others by suspected communist rebels elsewhere in Orissa.
Hindu extremists in Orissa have attacked and even killed Christian missionaries in the past, including Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons. The three were killed by a Hindu mob that set their car on fire.
Christian missionaries in the region often work with mostly poor tribes, with some Hindus charging the missionaries with pressuring or bribing people to convert. Christian churches deny the allegations.
India is about 84 percent Hindu with a Christian population composing only 2.4 percent of its 1.2 billion people.
Rome, Italy, Aug 26, 2008 (CNA) - Vatican Radio reported this week that former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt will meet with Pope Benedict XVI at Castelgandolfo on September 1. The news was announced in a statement from the family of Betancourt, who was recently rescued after six years as a hostage of the Marxist rebel group FARC.
Vatican Radio said the meeting with the Pope is “the fulfillment of a desire expressed by Betancourt herself in Bogota after she was freed on July 2.” The report also indicated that last February “the Holy Father met with Betancourt’s mother, Yolanda Pulecio, at the Vatican, and that the Pontiff’s repeated pleas for the release of all hostages and their return to their families, as well as for a new dialogue of reconciliation in Colombia, are widely known.”
After her audience with the Pope, Ingrid Betancourt will meet with journalists. She will be in Italy until September 3.
Rome, Italy, Aug 26, 2008 (CNA) - The Catholic Church in India and other Christians have come under attack by suspected Hindu militants after a fundamentalist Hindu leader was killed last Saturday. The Holy See has reacted to the violence by expressing its solidarity with the Church and by calling on Catholics not to over-react to the attacks.
According to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, thousands of Hindus from the militant Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) stormed the pastoral center of the Diocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar on Monday, shouting “kill Christians and destroy their institutions.” The mob reportedly destroyed the center. A social center in K. Nuagam, a church and parish residence in Kandhamal, and a chapel in Sundergarh were also said to be demolished.
Elsewhere, Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity came under attack as they traveled to Bhavanipatni in their van. In Udayagir, a van owned by the Daughters of the Most Precious Blood was torched by militants.
The latest wave of violence against Christians began when Hindu leaders incited people to attack Christians, blaming them for the death the Hindu leader Swami Laxanananda Saraspati and five of his followers.
The Holy See reacted to news of the attacks by on Tuesday by expressing its “solidarity with all local churches and religious congregations involved,” and rejecting “these actions that hurt the dignity and freedom of the people and compromise a peaceful civic coexistence.”
The Vatican also called on “everyone to put an end, with a sense of responsibility, to any over-reaction and help rebuild a climate of dialogue and mutual respect.”
Mexico City, Mexico, Aug 26, 2008 (CNA) - During his homily on Sunday, the Archbishop of Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera, said it was a contradiction to have a national accord against violence while at the same time legalizing abortion. Mexico’s Supreme Court is expected to rule soon on whether or not a law legalizing abortion in the capital is constitutional.
“Our Church not only applauds but will do everything possible to support the National Accord against Organized Violence,” the cardinal said. But “to me it is a contradiction to sign an accord against violence with great fanfare while at the same time we are threatened with the violence against the most innocent, those in the wombs of their mothers, being declared constitutional.”
The Mexican daily El Universal reported that the Supreme Court is expected to rule in favor of the law, which allows for abortion up to the twelfth week of pregnancy in Mexico City.
Cardinal Rivera also expressed his appreciation for the new book, “Life Before the Court: The Unconstitutionality of Abortion,” in which legal, medical, biological, bioethical, sociological and philosophical arguments reinforce what millions of Mexicans have already expressed with their signatures and with numerous protests” in support of the unborn.
Denver, Colo., Aug 26, 2008 (CNA) - Several hundred Democratic National Convention delegates and observers gathered at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered Caucus in Denver on Monday to discuss their political concerns and how to advance them. Focusing on the promotion of anti-discrimination laws and same-sex marriage, the delegates expressed a favorable attitude towards Sen. Barack Obama, and praised his support for many of their positions.
Caucus members and attending media received copies of an August 25 letter from Sen. Obama in which he praised the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered (LGBT) Caucus for “pushing our Party and our country to achieve equality for all Americans.”
Telling the delegates the Democratic Party is looking to the caucus to help reach, register, and turn out “LGBT voters” in “unprecedented numbers,” he praised their organizing abilities. Further, Obama wrote, “Our party and my candidacy are immeasurably stronger” because of such organizing.
Claiming as members at least 274 of the more than 4,000 delegates to the DNC, speakers at the LGBT caucus reported that their delegate numbers had grown between 30 and 41 percent since the last convention in 2004. They claimed about one third of their 2008 caucus is composed of youth and about 40 percent are “people of color.” One speaker welcomed the changes from past convention caucuses, which he said had been “almost entirely white.”
Many delegates and speakers addressed the gathering from a stage set up at the venue, a ballroom at the Colorado Convention Center.
Caucus member Evan Low, a city councilman of Campbell, California, projected an attitude of confidence and predicted the LGBT Caucus’ issues are going to be “by far a non-issue” in a few decades.
“We are making headway,” another delegate claimed. “We know we will prevail!” still another said.
California delegate John Perez, a state representative for Los Angeles, said that organized labor in the state was “pro-LGBT” and in favor of same-sex marriage.
“I look forward to the day when transgendered persons will have basic civil rights in school, home, and health care,” said Melissa Sklarz, a transgendered delegate from New York.
The caucus was also addressed by Tim Gill, a billionaire philanthropist who has reportedly donated over $150 million to many homosexual political candidates and causes. Gill encouraged the audience to donate to the opponents of “anti-gay” legislators at the state level to prevent any opponents of homosexual causes from rising to prominence through their party’s ranks. He targeted the Republican Party especially, characterizing it as “controlled by bigots.”
Arizona State Rep. Kyrsten Sinema told the caucus how she believed the Arizona same-sex marriage ban was defeated in a strategy dedicated to the “three Ms” of message, messengers, and money. She said homosexual activists’ message had to be carefully tailored to appeal to swing voters, while they also had to choose with care whom they put forward as “messengers” to oppose same-sex marriage bans. She said money was the “most important thing.”
“The radical right is scared to hell about people in this room. They will fight tooth and nail to keep what they have,” she alleged.
“Our time is coming!” she told the caucus.
However, Sinema claimed there was a “new wave of anti-gay initiatives” being proposed because, in her view, opponents of homosexual activism know they are losing the marriage debate and are changing tactics. She said an Arkansas ban on adoptions by single people was driven by animus against homosexuals, while she also decried a Maryland ballot proposal she considered “anti-transgendered” for seeking to repeal certain anti-discrimination laws.
California delegate Shannon Minter, who presented arguments in the California Supreme Court case that imposed same-sex marriage earlier this year, charged that the pro-traditional marriage Proposition 8 is “intended to take away dignity and hope.”
Claiming the opposition to Proposition 8 is “the largest field ever mobilized,” he praised Sen. Obama as the first Democratic nominee who he said “unequivocally opposes” initiatives seeking to ban or overturn same-sex marriages.
Rick Stafford, the LGBT Caucus Chair, praised the new party platform as the “most inclusive LGBT platform in the Democratic Party’s history.” He also noted that a former executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Leadership Council at the Democratic National Committee, Stonewall Democrat Brian Bond, has been appointed as the Obama campaign’s Director of Constituencies.
U.S. Representative Tammy Baldwin, who is from Wisconsin, also raised the issue of Statements of Administration Policy (SAPs), which she said are a critical medium by which activists may advance their cause with an ally in the White House.
“We’re going to love Obama’s SAPs,” she exclaimed.
Washington D.C., Aug 26, 2008 (CNA) - Representative Nancy Pelosi has been a lightning rod for the ire of conservatives for some time, but now she has drawn fire of a different kind. Within the last 24 hours, the archbishops of Denver, New York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C., along with Bishop William Lori have all publicly upbraided the Speaker of the House for her erroneous comments on the Church’s abortion teaching.
In a Meet the Press interview on August 24, Pelosi responded to a question from Tom Brokaw about when human life begins, saying “as an ardent, practicing Catholic, this is an issue that I have studied for a long time. And what I know is over the centuries, the doctors of the church have not been able to make that definition . . . St. Augustine said at three months. We don't know. The point is, is that it shouldn't have an impact on the woman's right to choose.”
Cardinal Edward Egan of New York became the latest prelate to denounce Ms. Pelosi’s comments when he said on Tuesday, “Like many other citizens of this nation, I was shocked to learn that the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States of America would make the kind of statements that were made to Mr. Tom Brokaw of NBC-TV on Sunday, August 24, 2008.”
Not only was Cardinal Egan shocked, but he went on to say that, “What the Speaker had to say about theologians and their positions regarding abortion was not only misinformed; it was also, and especially, utterly incredible in this day and age.”
The crystal-clear photographs and films that give people the ability to see babies in their pregnant mothers’ wombs make it impossible for anyone with “the slightest measure of integrity or honor” to fail to know what these “marvelous beings manifestly, clearly, and obviously are, as they smile and wave into the world outside the womb,” Cardinal Egan asserted.
“In simplest terms, they are human beings with an inalienable right to live, a right that the Speaker of the House of Representatives is bound to defend at all costs for the most basic of ethical reasons. They are not parts of their mothers, and what they are depends not at all upon the opinions of theologians of any faith.”
The head of the Catholic Church in New York closed his statement by saying that anyone who defends abortion is not fit to be a leader in a civilized democracy. “Anyone who dares to defend that they may be legitimately killed because another human being ‘chooses’ to do so or for any other equally ridiculous reason should not be providing leadership in a civilized democracy worthy of the name.”
Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Bishop William E. Lori, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine also issued a statement on Monday evening in which they remarked, “Nancy Pelosi misrepresented the history and nature of the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church against abortion.”
The two prelates then provided a historical recounting of the Church’s teaching on abortion and reaffirmed that “the Church teaches that from the time of conception (fertilization), each member of the human species must be given the full respect due to a human person, beginning with respect for the fundamental right to life.”
Writing in a Monday statement, Archbishop of Washington D.C. Donald Wuerl also criticized Pelosi’s comments. The archbishop emphasized that elected officials have the right to address matters of public policy, but added “the interpretation of Catholic faith has rightfully been entrusted to the Catholic bishops.”
“Given this responsibility to teach, it is important to make this correction for the record,” he continued.
The archbishop then quoted paragraphs 2270 through 2271 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which read:
“Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception…Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law.”
The archbishop said the Catechism goes on to quote the Didache, an early Christian treatise from the first century AD, which reads: “You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish.”
“From the beginning, the Catholic Church has respected the dignity of all human life from the moment of conception to natural death,” Archbishop Wuerl insisted.
On Monday Charles J. Chaput, Archbishop of Denver, and James D. Conley, Auxiliary Bishop of Denver, also released a statement responding to Pelosi’s comments, saying “ardent, practicing Catholics will quickly learn from the historical record that from apostolic times, the Christian tradition overwhelmingly held that abortion was grievously evil.”
Mexico City, Mexico, Aug 26, 2008 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Mexico, Bishop Carlos Aguiar Retes, appeared on Mexican television this week with a message in support of life, as the country’s Supreme Court prepares to rule on the constitutionality of the legalization of abortion in the capital.
Speaking for all of the bishops, Bishop Aguiar Retes reminded viewers that, “the defense of the newly conceived human being should be accompanied by the defense of the dignity of women. Respect for the right to life is at the heart of authentic democracy and the true rule of law.”
“Among the challenges we Mexicans face,” he went on, “the respect for human life from conception to natural death” is paramount. “Without the gift of life, all opportunity is gone.”
“No situation, no matter how unique, justifies harming the dignity of persons, especially of those who are most vulnerable, marginalized or defenseless,” the bishop said.
“When a society debates the legalization of abortion, what is really being discussed is the future of the nation,” he went on. “Recognizing and respecting the right to life is at the heart of authentic democracy and the true rule of law,” Bishop Aguiar Retes emphasized.
He also expressed the bishops’ trust in the institutions of the country and said the task before the Supreme Court to review the Mexico City law is “historic.” “As citizens, we trust that the justices will carry out their work with responsibility. We hope their decision will be guided by justice, law, truth and the common good,” he added
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug 26, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop Hector Aguer of La Plata called on Argentineans this week to create “a true clamor” in response to the culture of death that has been moving to attack the innocent and destroy the fundamental roots of society in the legislative arena.
During his weekly program, the archbishop referred to legislative attempts by the government to grant pensions to homosexuals whose “spouses” have died.
“Are there not other more serious injustices that need to be addressed?” he asked. “It would not be strange in this context to see an assault on the Civil Code in order to change the definition of marriage and therefore of the family founded upon it,” the archbishop continued.
He also mentioned proposed laws that would legalize abortion in all cases of rape, not just those of mentally handicapped women, as the current law states. The exception of abortion for a mentally handicapped woman was a “concession” that was granted “during the 1920s, in the context of a culture of eugenics, in which the fear was that the child of a deficient woman would be born deficient.”
“Today we know this is not the case, at least not necessarily, and to want to extend that absolutist excuse to every kind of rape as if it were a right is a very grave thing,” he warned.
Denver, Colo., Aug 26, 2008 (CNA) - Cecile Richards, President of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, (PPAF) addressed the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday evening, extolling Sen. Barack Obama as the “right choice” and naming him as only the second presidential candidate endorsed by the PPAF. She also attacked Sen. John McCain, for his alleged indifference to women’s health and his pledge to appoint Supreme Court justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade.
Richards, the daughter of former Texas Governor Ann Richards, claimed that Planned Parenthood health centers are the “leading providers of women’s health care in the country” and are visited by one in four women.
“And not just for birth control,” she added, saying cancer screenings and breast exams are provided by the organization.
Though Planned Parenthood is also the largest abortion provider in the country, she did not mention abortion directly.
“Many women have no other source of health care,” Richards continued, saying that women and families are forced to choose “between rent and doctor visits.”
She also asserted that young people need “information to make responsible decisions about their health.”
Claiming that presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama understands women’s health care needs and asserting that Sen. John McCain does not, she stated that Obama has worked for “affordable family planning, for comprehensive sex education and for a woman’s right to choose.”
“He will be a president who supports women’s health and rights one hundred percent. He’s the change America needs,” she exclaimed.
Arguing that a John McCain presidency will be “more of the same,” she claimed that McCain has spent 25 years “working against the health care needs of women.” According to Richards, McCain has voted against “women’s health care” 125 times. In addition, Richards argued that McCain has voted against what she called “real sex education” and “affordable family planning.”
“If elected, John McCain has vowed to appoint Supreme Court justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade,” she warned the DNC audience assembled in the first several rows of the Pepsi Center.
The 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade mandated legalized abortion throughout the United States.
“John McCain believes that judges, politicians and bureaucrats know better than women themselves what’s best for their health care,” Richards argued, singling out for condemnation McCain’s position on whether insurance companies should cover birth control.
“Women in this country deserve better,” she pronounced.
Acknowledging her daughter Lily, seated among the audience in the Pepsi Center, Richards said that Lily will cast her first presidential vote for Obama.
“For mom, for Lily, and for all women, Barack Obama is the right choice,” she said in closing.